Dear Good Greatsby: Smell Ya Later. Or Not, Because I Have No Sense of Smell.

Posted on October 12, 2011


(The Good Greatsby would appreciate any Halloween related questions concerning the ghost haunting your garbage disposal, the ghoul in your office microwave, or the skeletons in your closet.  Submit a question in 100 words or less on the Dear Good Greatsby page.)

Today’s question comes from Joe Knight who seeks an explanation for his lack of a sense of smell.  (Read Joe’s list of dumb things people say when they learn about his olfactory deficiency: Life With No Sense of Smell)

Dear Good Greatsby,

Why don’t I have a sense of smell? Everyone else gets to smell things. Don’t get me wrong though, I am glad I cannot smell the gross things in life. But I also assume I cannot taste to my full potential. I can taste things, but I would bet not as well as others. That could be a purposeful design from God though, because I do love food….just think, if I could fully taste I might be dead already from too much food consumption.


Paul: First off, let me tell you that smelling is overrated.  Dogs can smell at concentrations up to 100 million times lower than humans, but if this were such an evolutionary advantage, why has there never been a canine president?  How come dogs are the ones sniffing crotches for hidden drugs instead of humans?  How come their sense of smell never helps them smell our guilt and become suspicious when we take them to be neutered?

When you ask why you don’t have a sense of smell, are you asking for a scientific explanation or a philosophical/theological one?  If your question is theological, I should mention my viewpoints are neither endorsed by any official religion, nor any of the many unofficial religions that have sprung up expressly to take the opposite of my viewpoints.  Allow me to assure you that lacking a sense of smell doesn’t make you a bad person, although this is only my opinion and I can’t speak for those religions that consider smelliness next to godliness.

Some people report the loss of one sense may sharpen the other remaining senses; perhaps the sharpening of your other remaining senses could give meaning to your inability to smell.  Do you feel any of your other senses are unusually strong?  Don’t just consider the most common senses, but also consider additional senses like a sense of temperature, pain, or balance.  You might even expand beyond these established senses and consider a sense of wonder, destiny, or foreboding.

Have you ever noticed a sense of foreboding being stronger in you than in other people?  Do you constantly feel you’re about to get bad news?  Did you have a bad feeling years before Vin Diesel made the first Fast and the Furious movie?  When Conan O’Brien replaced Jay Leno on the Tonight Show did you have a pit in your stomach telling you not to celebrate too early?  It’s probably especially frustrating if your strong sense of foreboding warns you of an impending fire but your lacking a sense of smell prevents you from smelling the smoke.

Do you have a strong sense of destiny?  Do you show up to parties uninvited because you had a strong feeling fate was leading you there?

What about your sense of wonder?  Do you find yourself almost incapacitated by wonder the first time someone showed you a Swiss army knife?

I sympathize with your inability to taste food to its full potential, but is it possible this deficiency has sharpened your sense of style and improved your taste in dress, decorating, and women?

Finally, just to be sure, have you been officially diagnosed with anosmia or hyposmia?  Is it possible your inability to smell might be related to a blockage of the nasal passages?  Make sure and see a doctor for an official diagnosis because in some instances an inability to smell can be explained by small toys or raisins inserted into the nose as a child and then forgotten.

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